Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22966 – 1043
Here’s the haps:
Bethlehem is very small and David was very prolific. Even on feast days in Jerusalem itself, you do not think you have ever seen so many people. You have been to every house in the area; relatives you know, relatives you have never met, strangers they have referred you to, people you have done work for, even favors for, but the story is the same. If only you had come sooner. You hang your head. What can you do? You have tried everything from cajolery to bribery, but it is the same story and when you get back to the party, Mary is having pains. The real thing this time, too.
You decide to go back to the place you were at first. It is getting late and you go to speak again with the owner of the inn. The inn consists of a walled square with a well in the court and several unfurnished chambers with stables carved from the rock and built onto by a carpenter. The master of the house, Simeon, was prepared for a large crowd, but not for anything like this. He and his wife are used to entertaining many guests and are always prepared for travelers now and then, but every inch of space on all of the floors is covered. All of the chambers, the courtyard, and the large room that is actually part of the owners’ house are full. His house is full of relatives. There are people underneath tables, and people on top of tables. Every space is covered by someone. He has tried to find someone who would give up their space for your family and has even offered as much as five times what they paid, with no takers. But, he points out, really, the people are packed in so tightly they couldn’t move if they wanted to, and do you really want your wife to give birth in here?
“What am I to do?”
“You can see there is no room. None. What am I to do? I am already going to sleep standing up myself.”
The man’s wife, a sturdily built woman, comes out of the tiny kitchen. She has rented the chambers and rooms to weary travelers many times and often just opened the doors in hospitality and fed whole companies and caravans alongside her husband for years but she also has never seen anything even remotely like this. She likes you and feels sorry for Mary and thus has risen to the task, however.
“The stable hands will sleep in the kitchen with my husband and I and the other servants and you can have the stall in the stable that they usually use.”
Before you can bluster out your angry refusal, Mary’s mother comes and she looks very anxious. It is almost time. She speaks with the innkeeper’s wife, who has done the work of a midwife before, and ere you or he can open your mouths, the two women have made all the arrangements and the wife is already dispatching servants to make it as ready as possible.
As you walk around to the back where a cave has been squared off and someone has built a couple of stalls onto it you don’t even think about the star which is directly overhead with its longish tail following and almost pointing to the very rock you are walking toward. The arrangement is rather ingenious and you observe that the construction is solid. You look at how the animals can be separated or not by a series of little half-doors and admire the craftsman who came up with the design. A cloth over the opening would ensure complete privacy. You will have to remember this.
Your reverie is short-lived, however, broken into by the cries and groans of your poor little wife. This worries you. You have never heard her cry out like this. Will she be all right? She sounds as if she is being slowly tortured to death. You know so very little about women and childbirth and find it a bit fearsome as well as awesome and you are afraid for her. What if she is meant to die in childbirth? Could a woman give birth to the Holy One of Israel and not die? You try to push these thoughts aside, to save them for later, thinking to yourself that the Most High has a plan and that this thing obviously could not happen randomly. He does not work that way, but always has a plan of His own. Still, as Mary cries out with another pain, you wonder what manner of plan it is. Should not this be the true King of the Jews, King of all Creation? Why is he being born in a barn?